Sydney artist Mulga talks about his new children’s book Mulga’s Magical Musical Creatures

Ahead of the release of his new children’s book Mulga’s Magical Musical Creatures we sat down with Sydney-based street artist, illustrator and poet Mulga (Joel Moore) to find out a little bit more about the new book, how he created those illustrations, and just what makes the perfect children’s book.

What was the initial inspiration behind Mulga’s Magical Musical Creatures?

I love nature, and music, and animals, and sleeping, and writing poems, and I have kids of my own so I thought it would be radical to combine it all into a magical book!

How did you decide which animals got to play which instrument? Do some animals lend themselves more to certain musical genres?

I just went with what felt right, but for sure some animals are perfect for certain instruments. For example, the elephants needed to play trumpets because they have their own trumpet attached to them already so it is kind of funny that they play a man made trumpet as well.

Lions spend most of their time lounging around so having them lounging around singing like caberet singers would be super funny.

In terms of your creative process how do approach creating the pages for the book? And does this process differ from your murals?

Illustrating this book was the most challenging art project I have done yet. The drawings are a lot more complex than I usually do so I was stretched a lot and it was painful but the end result made it all worth it.

It is a lot different to how I usually work because I often draw the picture first and write the story second but this time it was the other way around and I had to make the pictures to match the words. That was challenging and I remember thinking “why did I write about elephants playing trumpets, this is sooo hard to draw!”

The way I drew the book was I would do some rough sketches and then the final sketches and then the colour and then the black lines. Usually when I paint murals I wont do the rough sketches but I will do the rest of what I just said.

You’ve collaborated with some musicians in creating songs to accompany the book; can you tell us a little bit more about how that came about? And where can fans get hold of the tracks?

Because the book is about music I thought it would be awesome to collaborate with musicians to turn the book into rocking songs. I did an open shout out and anyone who wants to collaborate is welcome too. It is still open so if you are reading this and are musician get in touch with me and we can get our collab on.

What do you think are the ingredients for the perfect children’s picture book?

For me good children’s picture book has at least these 3 ingredients. 1, it rhymes, a rhyming book makes it really fun to read. 2, it is short and sweet, books that go on forever become a drag, and 3, it has radical pictures. Some books I have read to my kids I wonder if the illustrator even tried at all to make good pictures.

What were some of your favourite books you remember growing up with? And why?

I loved Dr Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham, I just love the rhymes and wacky story and cool pictures. That book was really influential on me musically when I went through my rap phase.

Who are some of the artists that have inspired you or influenced your work?

Henri Rousseau is an inspiration. I love his jungle scenes, they are so magical and also humorous at the same time. I love the mystery, layers and the detail of his paintings.

Terms like ‘Artist’, ‘Street Artist’ and ‘Illustrator’ can all conjure up a certain image and impression of the work that is being created. How do you prefer to define yourself and your work?

I just think of myself as a dude who makes images, fun ones that make people smile.

As more artists are perhaps moving away from the traditional gallery centric route, do you envisage colouring books and children’s books becoming a path for artists to get their work seen?

I think there are so many different ways to get your art seen, books are definitely an awesome way to do it.

The way I started out was putting my art on t-shirts. I figured it was an easier way to get my art out there and get more eyeballs on it than going the traditional route.

Financial Advisor to street artist to Children’s book author, on the face of it isn’t the most obvious of career routes; how do you feel each of these different career steps have influenced, helped or informed your creative work?

I never thought that being an artist was a thing I could do for a career and make a comfortable living from it. But after working 10 years in an office job that wasn’t really suited to me I thought there was nothing to lose in taking the art making more seriously. So I gradually eased myself into it and it really took off and I haven’t looked back.

I think working in the office job for so long got me to a point where I really wanted to do something I loved for a job. I think it is all a journey and as you go along different opportunities pop up and you can end up at a place you never thought of and that makes it really exciting.

For example, I recently painted the walls of a nightclub that I used to go to 15 years ago. Back then I would have never dreamed that I would be back covering the place in flouro paint in 15 years time.

What further projects do you have lined up after the books release?

I have a bunch of sweet murals and cool commercial collaborations lined up. So that should be pretty cool. I would also like to write more books and make an animated TV show and then a movie and then build a theme park. But they are long term plans, I’ll keep dreaming about them for the moment.

Mulga’s Magical Musical Creatures is released today (September 27th) through Lothian / Hachette


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Simon Clark

Books Editor. An admirer of songs and reader of books. Simon has a PhD in English and Comparative Literature. All errant apostrophes are his own.